An open letter to that horrible woman from the thrift store

yellow pen on paper

Dear Lady From the Thrift Store,

I’m sure you are thrilled to hear that I still think about you after all these months. I’m sure you will be very pleased to know that your little show (your Passive-Aggression Play, if you will), gave me my first full-blown panic attack since I quit my toxic job five years ago. I stumbled through the racks from Skirts, where you were celebrating your triumph over my perceived evil nature with your Mini-Me, until I found myself in a half-finished furniture display pushed up against the storefront, where I was able to hide for a few minutes and cover my mouth to keep myself from hyperventilating until I passed out.

Did you think I would change my heathen ways? Did you think I would run out to my borrowed hooptie and pull my lip ring out? Did you think I would call my baby daddy and cry about you? Or that I would go home, strip naked, and invoke the devil to revenge me upon you? Did you pray for me? Or did you just snigger every time you thought of me and enjoy the rush of feeling superior to a random person you assumed to be your inferior? Do you treasure the horrified face I made?

Because I was truly horrified.  I have never seen such behavior outside of poorly written television. If you’ve ever wondered why “that lesbian lady” has a TV show and you don’t, it’s not because there’s an “anti-Christian agenda” in Hollywood, it’s because both Ozzie Osborne and the Kardashians were deemed to have more redeeming qualities than you. (Yeowch)

I know you will insist that you were neither talking to me nor about me, but let’s be honest: we both know that’s a giant lie. You may not have been talking about me in the literal sense, since your subject of conversation with your doomed daughter was an eleven year old girl who attends your scary mega-church, but I know that she was just a stand-in for me. How? A) After you got a good eyeful of me (and you looked me up and down like I was a green steak at Wal-Mart) your topic changed mid-sentence from ew-there’s-nothing-name-brand-here to ew-did-you-see-that-stupid-woman-in-church-put-lipstick-on-her-little-girl. B) Her inappropriate face was clearly a metaphor for my own. You aren’t half as subtle as you think you are, Madame.

So an eleven year old was wearing lipstick. So what? You kept saying “You know what that means.” Yes, I know precisely what it means.  It means an eleven year old girl was wearing lipstick.  The end. Her lipstick does not mean she is sexually promiscuous or a prostitute (or that her mother is, as you very clearly stated when you grew weary of insinuating and started outright libeling), just as my lip ring does not mean that I am sexually promiscuous or a prostitute. (We’ll leave aside for now my argument that neither promiscuity nor prostitution are necessarily immoral – this letter is far enough outside your comprehension as it is.) You know what it means that you kept saying “You know what that means”? That means you were sexualizing an eleven year old girl. A child. That makes you no better than the lecherous old men who keep a mental calendar of when some starlet becomes “legal”.  Does that stick in your craw? I hope to hell it does.

So you’re a wretched hag. A wretched hag who cackled about this poor girl you go to church with – who just wanted to give in to the crushing pressure of society and look pretty – and made inexcusable insinuations about both her and, by extension, me, in a public setting. But that’s not what keeps me up at night.

What keeps me up at night is not actually the thought of you, but of your daughter. Raised in Mother’s image to be a hate-filled, judgmental, bigoted, image-obsessed, self-righteous, holier-than-thou waste of space. Raised to parrot the small circle of authority figures around her, to repeat Mother’s acidic aphorisms and Pastor’s patriarchal condemnations.  And, to quote a song by Garfunkel and Oates (not a typo): “So whatever people tell me that the Bible tells me, I will do.”

So you’re a church lady, eh? I’m pretty sure the folks in Long Sleeved Knits gathered that – you were pretty goddamn vocal about your goddamn church on this dark day in Value Village. Well, I don’t know what church you go to but I think I can safely infer that it’s one of the regrettably growing majority that frown on folks reading the Bible unsupervised, veering away from the approved talking points during Bible study, asking bothersome “questions”, or using Google. I am not a Christian, but I was confirmed in the Lutheran church and I have actually read the Bible and asked questions about it, so I know a thing or two. And here’s one thing I know: you are the kind of “Christian” (quotation marks mandatory) that makes both me, my heathen friends, and actual (no quotation marks) Christians furious. If Christian means follower of Christ then let me be the first to tell you, lady, that you have veered way, way, way off the path.  You are headed straight down the very narrow valley of Satan’s Buttcrack which leads to the Repression of Women marsh and Fundamentalist Nostalgia for Jim Crow Days sinkhole. Jesus went thataway, down the Love Everybody trail.

Seriously, lady, listen to me: I am not a Christian and I love Jesus.  You hear that? I don’t believe in God, but Jesus is more than just all right with me. You know why this atheist, along with a most Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews, love Jesus, even though we don’t think he was divine? Because of his wicked simple message: Love everybody. That’s it.  That’s all.  No need for chapter and verse, no interpretation required, because it’s that simple: “Love everybody.” Love yourself, your enemy, your family, your coworkers, the smelly hobo at the end of the street, even the fucking Kardashians. Love everybody. He did not say “Love everybody unless this” or “Love everybody in spite of that.” No ifs, ands, or buts – no conjunctions or modifiers necessary. Love everybody, god-fucking-dammit.

So you wanna hear the stinger to this letter? I have been reading a lot of Zen books in the past year and there is a meditation called Loving-Kindness, in which one essentially focuses thoughts of pure love, compassion, and sincere wishes for happiness and health at the mental image of another person like a motherfucking Care Bear beam. When I think of you, and my blood pressure spikes and my ears ring and my teeth grit . . . I take a deep breath and close my eyes and I visualize a column of white-hot love and compassion shooting out of my chest and smacking you right in your sanctimonious gob.  (And then I take another deep breath and try to push out the sarcasm and vindictiveness and really mean it this time.)

This calms me right down, because instead of remaining furious at you I begin to feel really sorry for you.  I pity you and I especially pity your daughter.  And I sincerely hope that both of you wake up to your own internalized misogyny and cancer-like hate for the world before it is too late. I want you to be happy, to let go of the awful way you have been living, and to love everybody. I really really do.

Every time I do this exercise it gets a little easier because a little more of my anger erodes away. Someday – maybe not soon, but someday – I will truly love you.

(Don’t you just fucking hate me for that?)

— Amanda

Image courtesy of papaija2008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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